Outdoor retailer putting down roots with Nanaimo store

NANAIMO – World's biggest outdoor gear retailer takes over vacant building in Nanaimo's north end.

An artist’s rendering suggests what the Cabela’s store in north Nanaimo might look like once completed.

An artist’s rendering suggests what the Cabela’s store in north Nanaimo might look like once completed.

Cabela’s, the world’s largest retailer of hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor gear has put down roots in north Nanaimo.

The old Canadian Tire building is being renovated into the retailer’s new home with more than 4,600 square metres of retail space.

It’s also Cabela’s first store in British Columbia and seventh store in Canada.

“We haven’t set a specific date yet, but construction’s on schedule and we have it scheduled to open this fall sometime,” said Nathan Borowski, Cabela’s spokesman.

The company plans to hire about 150 full-time employees to staff the Nanaimo store.

Cabela’s opened its first Canadian store in Winnipeg, Man., in 2007. The location might seem odd, but Borowski said the company determines where its strong customer bases are by tracking its online sales shipments, plus Cabela’s already had a distribution centre in Winnipeg. The company has since branched out to Saskatchewan, Alberta, Ontario and is eyeing a store location in Moncton, N.B. Nanaimo was pinpointed as an area with a high volume of existing outdoor enthusiasts.

Cabela’s U.S. stores are known for their elaborate displays, nature museums and events that actually make the stores themselves tourist destinations.

“The company was built on the passion for the outdoors and for fun, so we definitely try to create that atmosphere and our culture within our stores,” Borowski said. “We try to really engulf customers in an outdoor-feeling experience as soon as they come in with museum quality wildlife displays – a lot of our stores feature mountain replicas – a lot of interactive and educational kiosks and touch screen displays.

“We host events in our stores, seminars and courses where we actually encourage customers and members of the community to come in, learn about the outdoors and specific outdoor activities, whether it be fly fishing, hunting safety, outdoor cooking. We offer a large variety of courses and demonstrations.”

Borowski forgot to mention the massive aquariums and indoor archery ranges.

How elaborate the Nanaimo store will be remains to be seen. The Nanaimo outlet will rank among the smallest in the chain; some of Cabela’s U.S. stores have retail spaces exceeding 23,000 square metres.

Borowski said Cabela’s will offer something for everyone and has also expanded into outdoor hobbies such as gold panning, geocaching and also carries a line of metal detectors.

“Part of that is we do a lot of research on where our stores are located, what activities are popular in that area and what we believe our customers will spend their time outdoors doing and adjust our product offering accordingly,” Borowski said.